Team captains will present their lineups before each session of the Laver Cup. With 36 possible singles match-ups, they can use one player a maximum of two times in singles and the same doubles pairing once. With this in mind, we asked 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion Todd Woodbridge to explore potential match-ups between Team Europe and Team World.
Team Europe Dominic Thiem (7) v Team World Milos Raonic (10)
For McEnroe this would be a must-win encounter for Team World, a match he would expect Raonic to win. This would be a close encounter: the only thing holding Raonic back from victory may be his lack of match play throughout the season.
While Raonic is the more experienced campaigner, having competed on the ATP Tour since 2008, he has only faced emerging Austrian Dominic Thiem twice. Both encounters were on hard courts in 2016, with Raonic a 6-3 6-4 victor in the quarterfinals at Cincinnati and indoors, at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, winning 7-6(5) 6-3.
Dominic Thiem, at 23, is the youngest competitor in the Laver Cup field and one of the most consistent of ‘Generation Next’, having reached the semifinals at Roland Garros. It won’t be long before he goes all the way at the majors. One of the heaviest hitters and cleanest ball strikers of the younger generation, he relies on patience and bullish determination at the back of the court to achieve his results.
Milos Raonic, 26, has experienced an interrupted 2017 season through injury, but when fit has the ability to upset any player in the world, with wins over Federer and Nadal, who he defeated at Brisbane in January and at Indian Wells in 2015. In spite of his setbacks, Raonic has maintained a top-10 ranking. A former Wimbledon finalist, Raonic has climbed as far as No.3 in the world rankings and is a dangerous opponent on hard courts, having won all of his eight titles on a hard surface. He possesses a massive first serve and powerful forehand. Over the past two seasons he has improved his footwork and can finish more points at net.
Thiem has played a lot this year, for a 39-17 win-loss result (as at August 14), which is exceptional. His biggest wins have come on clay (in fact, six of his overall eight singles titles have been on clay). By comparison, Raonic is 28-10 this season, so he has played a lot less. All of his titles have come on hard court and five of these have been indoors. Mentally, he will thrive in these conditions at Prague. If chosen to play against Thiem, he would aim to take time away from the Austrian by keeping points short. Indoor conditions favor big servers because they are not battling environmental elements like wind, so it is easier to get rhythm … another plus for the big-serving Canadian who has sent down a total of 5914 aces in his career, 4036 of these on hard courts.